Ben Duke – quiet but effective
Duke invested in Vail Associates as a limited partner in 1961. He was appointed to the board of directors in 1966 and remained active until George Gillett bought the company in 1985. During his later years, from 1983 to 1985, he served as chairman.
A quiet but effective leader, Duke had a common-sense approach to business. This was apparent from his being hired by Gates Rubber Company in 1946 and rising to chairman of the Gates Corporation, parent company of Gates Rubber. He was the first person outside of the Gates family to head the Denver-based company.
Duke was an avid skier and a member of the 10th Mountain Division in World War II. Until his untimely death in an automobile accident in 1996, he still raced regularly in the master’s ski-racing circuit.
In addition to his leadership of Vail Associates, he served on many boards including those of the 10th Mountain Trail Association and the Vail Foundation, where he spearheaded bringing the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships to Vail. In 1966, he was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame. To honor his relationship with the 10th Mountain Division, Duke conceptualized and funded, with his wife, Maud, the 10th Mountain Room at the Denver Public Library. He also served as a member of the Friends Foundation at the Library and on the board of the Colorado Nature Conservancy.
In the late 1960s, Duke was instrumental in upgrading management of Vail Associates by hiring a new president. Had he been on the board of directors in the beginning, Ben Duke would have been one of the most renowned inventors of Vail.
Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 83rd installment, an excerpt from chapter 11, “The Corporate Team.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.